On Saturday night, the Gateway Youth Hockey Bantam team took the first step towards what they hope will be a culmination of four years of work as they defeated Pembroke 6-2 in the first game of the Yankee Conference playoffs.
The team consists of several skaters who represent the first class of hockey players that helped bring youth hockey back to Wareham after several years without a program. When a close knit family of volunteers made Gateway Youth Hockey a reality a few short years ago, many of the current Bantams laced up their skates for the first time. Now years later, they are poised to put the exclamation point on their experiences in youth hockey. “Most of these kids have skated together for more than four years, and they have grown so much together,” Coach Mike Houdlette said. The team endured their share of long losing streaks and blowout losses in the first few years, but their recent successes mirror that of the entire organization.
This season started with an exciting opportunity for the team that represented how far they, and Gateway Youth Hockey, had come. The team, as well as the Squirt 1 IceWolves, was welcomed into the very well respected Yankee Conference which allowed both teams to compete in a high quality league against established youth hockey programs. “I told the boys at the beginning of the season that this opportunity came with a lot of responsibility, because we would be carrying the banner for the entire program,” Ben Hathaway, coach of the Bantams and President of Gateway Youth Hockey, explained. And carry the banner they did, as they rode a balanced attack to a 17-8-1 record, good enough for 3rd place in the regular season standings. TheIceWolves enjoyed a dominant season in their inaugural season in the Yankee Conference, finishing first with an impeccable record of 27-0.
“Our two goals at the start of the season were to get these boys ready for the next level of hockey, playing for their high school teams, and to show people that Gateway Hockey was a competitive, quality hockey program.” Houdlette said. Mission accomplished. Two of the current Bantams, Alex Atkinson and Matt St. John, tried out and made their varsity high school teams as freshman, and became contributors to Wareham High School and New Bedford High School respectively. In addition, Brian Holmes and Brady Smith competed on the Mashpee High practice squad during their freshman winter. The experience that they brought back to the Bantam team was invaluable in creating a responsible, hard working attitude to the ice. “We are all so proud of how far these kids have come since they started skating, not only on the ice, but in the locker room as well. They have become quality young men,” said Houdlette, noting that all that is left is for them to become champions too.
Playing in the Pee Wee division and for the Wareham Middle School team the last few years, many of the players have gotten a taste of playoff hockey. Each of the last two seasons ended as they came up just short of their goals, losing close playoff games each year. They are hoping that this year is different. “We have a real chance to win the league championship this year, if we play to our potential,” Hathaway explained. On Saturday night, they took the first step to making Hathaway’s prediction a reality.
After almost five minutes of tight, scoreless hockey, Mike Houdlette took a nifty feed from Sean Kelso and found the back of the net to give Gateway the lead. The Gateway defense of Matt St. John, Jacob Tomasik, Doug Breault, and Alex Hathaway continually stifled the Pembroke offense, limited them to only a handful of shots, while the offense continued to pressure the outstanding Pembroke goaltender. “This was the best game of the year for our defense,” Houdlette recounted. Finally, St. John opened the flood gates as he took a pass at the point and boomed a slapshot into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead. St. John and Brady Smith then scored less than one minute apart to push the lead to 4-0. Sean Kelso finished the scoring in the first period, directing in a shot from Breault.
In the second period, Gateway’s offense struggled to find its groove and Pembroke snuck a goal in on goalie AJ Bridges, but he bounced back to make several key saves late in the period to keep the lead safe. In the third, the Bantams focused on defense and used its speed to keep Pembroke from mounting any kind of comeback. A Pembroke goal was matched by St. John’s third goal of the night to make the final score 6-2.
The next step toward a potential championship is a game against Hanover at the Hobomock Rink in Pembroke on Saturday, March 16th at 8:30pm. “This is going to be the game of the year,” Hathaway stated, referring to the physical nature that both of these teams tend to play. “They are talented and they are tough,” said Houdlette, “but so are we.”
Regardless of whether the Bantams finally get to enjoy a championship celebration, this season has been a great way to finish off their youth hockey careers. “These guys have been a part of something special in bringing hockey back to Wareham and they should be proud of their legacy as pioneers, and hopefully champs too.”
The Gateway Squirt 1 IceWolves play their next playoff game against GYH-USA at theBavis Rink in Rockland on March 17 at 8:40am.
Squirt Ice Wolves – The Gateway IceWolves started their playoffs early Sunday morning with a win against Braintree 8-0. Leading the way were Quirino doCanto and Tyler Lovendale, each with hat tricks. Also chipping in with goals were Madison Guinen and Johnny Rodrigues with one each. Thomas Galavotti played solid in net earning a shutout.
In the second game of the day, the IceWolves fell short to an undefeated Nantucket team 3-2. The IceWolves struck first early in the first period with a goal from Tyler Lovendale, assisted by Quirino doCanto. They took the 1-0 lead into the second period, but Nantucket finally took advantage of the tired Gateway team and got on the board scoring 3 in the second period. Down 3-1 in the third, there was no quit in the IceWolves scoring again, Lovendale from doCanto again. Despite all their efforts, the IceWolves couldn’t net the tying goal, thus eliminating them from the Cape League playoffs.
Squirts Sharks – The Gateway Squirt C Sharks wrapped up their season this morning. The Sharks finished the year in 3rd place earning a slot in Sunday morning’s Cape & Island’s Youth Hockey Playoffs. Sunday’s game was against the 2nd place Y-D Dolphins and was one of the most exciting games we’ve played; the fans were on the edge of their seats. Gateway took an early lead in the first period with two goals by Ben DeMoranville. The Dolphins fought back with two goals in the second period to tie the game and then both teams played extremely hard in a scoreless third period ending regulation play with a 2 – 2 tie. The teams headed for a shoot-out where goalie Alex DeMarco played 6 strong rounds until the Dolphins were finally able to net the sudden death goal.
Pee Wee Gladiators – The Gateway Gladiators were “one and done” in this season’s playoff run. The Gladiators skated strong but the lack of offensive continued to be the team’s Achilles Heel. Matt Maloney generated the only tally for Gladiators in the 2-1 loss, as he somehow managed to put the puck past the goalie while seated on his backside. The team got a strong game from both goalies, as Zack Pateakos earned the shutout.
The Gateway Gladiators played a great first and third period against the SWS Chiefs during Sunday’s non-conference game. Unfortunately, the team gave up 4 unanswered goals in the middle frame, resulting in a 7-2 loss. Zack Lovendale scored two unassisted goals to provide the Gladiators with their only offense.
Middle School – The Wareham Vikings Middle School team recorded another win Sunday, March 3rd against Canton. Sean Kelso found the net almost as soon as the game began, assisted by Doug Breault in his first game back after a concussion. Kelso found the net again as the period ended, giving the Vikings a 2-0 lead. A roughing penalty in the second gave Matt Youlden his first experience at a penalty shot, but the Vikings remained otherwise scoreless in the second. Canton managed to find the net at the ten minute mark. Wil Paling hit the net at the start of the third, assisted by Jared Westgate. Although Canton found the net twice more, it was not enough to best the Vikings, who scored again with another goal by Mike Houdlette, assisted by Alex Hathaway. Coach Howie Ladd was pleased with the team’s performance and especially praised Youlden for his grace under pressure and Matt Maloney and Cam DeMarco for back checking.
Friday March 8 found the Vikings once again in Foxboro for a matchup against another Canton team. The Vikings scored immediately with a goal by Wil Paling, assisted by Mike Houdlette and Connor Kelley, and ended the first with a second goal by Houdlette, assisted by Sean Kelso. A very short-handed Canton came to life in the second period however, matching the Vikings goal for goal. Canton pulled ahead in the third, scoring twice. Houdlette found the net with the help of Kelley and Matt Youlden, and Kelso scored on a breakaway, but it wasn’t quite enough and the game ended in a tie 4-4.